Tuesday, June 17, 2008

What is 'Pancreas Parenting'??

I know, it sounds crazy, but with all the different types of parenting out there today.. why should we not be able to term our love as 'Pancreas Parenting'... and one of the first things they told me before they discharged our family from the hospital was " remember... you are a parent, not a pancreas!" Well, I beg to differ, but most importantly, I think if we think of being a pancreas as a positive idea, rather than feeling solely the burden of the lacking function of the body part... we enable both ourselves, and our children to care for thier diabetes in the most personal, and involved way possible.

I have chosen to help empower my son to want to be his pancreas. Strange, I know... but when I put it into his 'terms' it means.. he gets to be a 'glucose detective' and if you ask me.. Magnum PI had nothing on my kid ;) My son likes to guess what his BG is before he checks it... so he gets a sense of responsibility and a true aquantaince with what each different BG feels like. It was only a short while before he could guess his BG within a pretty close range. I think that makes him feel pretty good, and is a talent in itself. Rememeber, our children must grow up, we must release the 'pancreas power' to them... it will one day be thier sole responsibility. We cannot always be there.

How to empower your little diabetic (in my opinion of course);

1. Let them be their own Glucose detective, if you are still doing injections, give them a 'handy dandy' notebook and let them be a part of the journaling process. at the end of each BG test, let them put a emotion face (smily, sad, happy face etc) beside the BG so they can associate how they feel with each BG, emotionally and retrospectively, this will help them get to know themselves and their own personal diabetes symptoms a bit better. If they are using a pumping system, let them use the buttons after a reasonable time period, showing them what you are doing, and how they will do it with you.

2. Let them pick the finger or the 'process' or 'routine' that surrounds thier BG check.. we call it a poke... I know... but sometimes we have to just choose a word, and that one worked for us... a finger stick was way too formal for our son. he liked to sit on my lap in a hug position for the longest time. (Same goes for site changes or Pod changes - he likes to have a two arm wrap around while the pod inserts, and if possible, he likes to do it in the same private area of the house, without an audience)

3. Let them try and guess what they would do if they were treating themself. What they they need... insulin or food?? or my sons favorite for a high.. " a few jumping jacks should bring that right down ;)" (note: this does not always work, but exercise is important and shaking a few sillies out never hurts!) We think drilling into everyone in our sons life that "insulin brings BG DOWN and sugar brings BG up is an important 'lock to memory' statement.. most uninformed friends assume if the child is low, they need more insulin!

4. Ask them what they would like for low, and if they are really young, but understand.. give them a few healthy choices (eg. would you prefer a juice box, or a fruit leather?)

5. Teach them about the importance of the meals and snack choices. Let them know that if they have a protein at each meal, they will feel better for longer and it works nicely with the insulin.. . protein is a good thing.

6. When teaching them to read or math, use labels... empower them to know how to look for the important parts of the label or atleast know the terms to guide others in the right direction. Show them how you portion their foods or use serving size as a guide when you plate their food, let them use measuring cups and be a part of the process... You will be amazed at how fast they want to learn math! Our son was doing multiplications before he finished kindergarden so he could figure out how he could get more than one serving size and figure out the carbs.

7. If they have had a low in the night, or a high.. ask them about it in the morning, if they remember it... and what you did to treat it. You will be surprised, and it lets them know what happens to their bodies in the night time. My son gets a bit too excited with night time highs in the wee morning hours, he figures it has got to be growth hormones, which means he is getting bigger and taller each day... which to a 5 year old means he will probably run faster! ;)

8. Find a cool case for them to use to carry supplies when they feel they want to. Don't make it a burdon, but let them be a part of the responsibility process.. you would be surprised, how it can make a child proud rather than embarassed of their medical condition when they get the attention for a cool camoflauge pack with supplies in it, rather than always having to run to mom to get stuff out of her purse.

9. Love your child, accept the disease, and talk about it. As we all know, we cannot pretend they don't have it... so we must accept diabetes as a freind, like ourselves, we must take care of it, and respect it and understand it..... try not to make it mad ;) We all feel better when we cooperate :)

10. Live by honesty being the best policy.. there are no good or bad numbers, but highs and lows, and it is more important for them to express that they really want the "name the carb treat here' and why they want it, and how they will feel if they have it (physically and emotionally) and how they will feel if they don't. Our son has become quite attuned to knowing if something is going to make him feel a bit on the YUCK side if he has the big piece of cake instead of half and small side of a reasonable choice of icecream vs. the way he feels if his piece is a bit smaller than his friends peices.. it only takes a while before they realize, they can play harder and feel better if they make good choices. Insulin was not invented to load up on carbs and try and push it to the max... we have to still make responsible choices with our kids within reason regardless of if they are diabetic or not.

11. Never let them give up hope. Some parents promise a cure, I promise hope, and progress, in the past year alone the progress we personally made with supplies and his numbers was incredible. Technology has come far, science has come far... Superstars have come out and openly discussed the importance of the cause. Never give up, and never let your child give up hope. My son still says, " every wish I make I know it might not come true today, but I keep wishing cuz you never know, if you keep wishing it might come true one day.. even if it is not today" (I don't need to remind you how fast diabetes forces a responsible child to grow up)

I would love to discuss any ideas or issues or scenarios you deal with and how you help you child. Ultimately, we are in this to help them.. to help themself.

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